Monday, December 25, 2000

Students exposed to creches from afar

By Cindy Kranz
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Nativity School students know Christmas is near when the school's 22 international creches go on display. What they don't know yet is the impact this tradition may have on their lives.

        The Pleasant Ridge school lives up to its name with its eclectic collection from countries ranging from Kenya to Vietnam. Through the creches, educators hope students understand God sent Jesus for all people in all times.

[photo] Nativity School students, (from left) Patrick Murphy, Taylor Kellam, Erin Murphy and Josh Kellam hold pieces of a creche from Ecuador made of painted dough.
(Gary Landers photos)
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        “If we only see Western depictions of a Nativity scene or God, there's a tendency to think God only came for Westerners,” said Bob Herring, principal of the K-8 school.

        “It helps us understand the world is bigger than our immediate culture. What we hope is it broadens their world view and helps them understand the world is bigger than Cincinnati.

        When Mr. Herring became principal in 1984, the school had one creche from Mexico. The collection took off from there, meshing with the school's foreign exchange program.

        Nativity educators believe it's part of their mission to develop global awareness, knowing kids will live in a world bigger than Cincinnati, Ohio and the United States.

        “We want them to have an openness to what they find that is not down the street, around the corner or even in their own back yard,” Mr. Herring said.

[photo] This hand-carved wooden Nativity scene is from Finland. At lower right is a matchbook-sized creche from Peru.
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        The creches play a role in making those global connections, with figures representing people of all colors. The creches are made of materials ranging from dough to corn husks to carved wood.

        The creches are from Australia, Bangladesh, Costa Rica, Ecuador, El Salvador, Finland, France, Germany, Ghana, Holland, India, Ireland, Italy, Jordan, Kenya, Madagascar, Mexico, Peru, the United States (Navaho Indian) and Vietnam.

        Nine-year-old third-grader Patrick Murphy of Pleasant Ridge said the creches teach him, “That you should remember it is Jesus' birthday, and he was born for us, instead of all those presents.”

       Creches “helps us to see this Gospel story is still living,” says Dr. Gillian Ahlgren, associate professor of theology at Xavier University.
       It reinforces for children that the story of the Nativity isn't just an historical event, she says. “It's not simply a story from the past. The creches allow children to get closer to what the experience might have been like, seeking shelter in the cold, and apply it to situations today, such as homelessness.
       "Is there any relationship to what I can see in my present life? It's cold out now. Is there anybody looking for shelter now?”


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- Students exposed to creches from afar
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